Comparing ISO 27001 Standard and NIST Security Framework

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Both the NIST security framework and the ISO 27001 standard deal with information security controls. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) mentions that ISO 27001 provides guidelines for the establishment of an information security management system (ISMS). Digital Guardian informs us that the NIST security framework is designed to shore up inefficiencies in a business’s information security plans. 

It’s immediately apparent that both of these methodologies share a common goal. However, they’re not interchangeable. This article delves into the similarities and differences between the NIST’s framework and ISO 27001.

The Structure of the ISO 27001

The ISO 27001 standard has ten (10) clauses that outline the critical information for applicants. The first three (3) clauses go over references, terms, and a basic understanding of the standard. The seven that follow are instrumental in helping businesses develop and finalize their ISMS. They define the business’s organizational context and probe whether the company’s leadership is committed to ensuring the standard’s success. 

Other steps ask about the business’s ability to anticipate information  security threats (cybersecurity and IT security) and manage its information security risk. The ISO standard examines the company’s established support network and suggests ways to improve and develop it. It then makes suggestions on the operation of the business’s ISMS. 

As with all ISO standards, there is a built-in system for self-improvement. The final clauses of the ISO 27001 document focus on evaluating the established system’s performance and how to improve those processes. Implementing this standard can bring benefits to businesses in several ways. We covered previously how the ISO 27001 standard can work in concert with project management.

ISO 27001 Annex A has 14 Domains with 114 controls. NIST covers 110 of these controls. 

Understanding the NIST Security Framework

Since both the ISO 27001 standard and the NIST framework have similar goals, it’s evident that there will be overlap between their implementations. However, while the ISO 27001 standard was designed for a specific purpose, the NIST framework is more open-ended. As such, any business that uses information technology stands to benefit from this framework. The NIST security framework relies on five overarching principles:

  • Identify: This step determines the risks that exist within the organization from a cybersecurity perspective. It’s similar to the fourth clause of ISO 27001.
  • Protect: Businesses that have cybersecurity risks need to protect the organization’s data and infrastructure from them. This protection either stops threats from occurring or minimizes the impact of those threats if they enter the system.
  • Detect: The longer a threat remains undetected on a system, the more havoc it can cause. This step allows businesses to find threats faster and neutralize them.
  • Respond: This step creates an organized response so that all parties know what they have to do. In a cybersecurity breach, time is crucial to success. Having everything planned out beforehand speeds up deployment and engagement.
  • Recover: This stage focuses on getting the business’s systems back online and working as usual. It addresses factors such as backup and restore times, and allows the company some recovery time to get back on track after an attack.

Similar Yet Different

There are distinct similarities in how these methodologies approach the problem of information security. The NIST framework is heavily flexible, which gives it a lot of room for application. However, this flexibility leaves the interpretation of the framework to the business implementing it. The ISO standard, on the other hand, is more focused on what it provides to companies. The defined, cyclical nature of the standard makes it ideal for a specific situation. Unfortunately, it’s not very flexible in application. Despite this, we’ve covered several ways how the ISO 27001 standard can benefit businesses.

If you’ve got questions about ISO 27001 or the NIST security framework, Contact Sync Resource. Let our experts help you to understand what each offers your business and which one is right for you.


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